While most political observers’ eyes will be focused heavily on the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, this November’s elections will see hundreds of LGBTQ candidates on the ballot, with some potential historic achievements and some interesting storylines stemming from the results of Tuesday’s elections.
According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the organization whose mission is to elect out LGBTQ candidates to office to increase representation and ensure that issues affecting the community are addressed from a public policy standpoint, at least 410 out candidates ran for office this year. Following a number of primary elections, at least 242 will appear on Tuesday’s ballot — more than half — 131 — of whom have earned Victory Fund endorsements.
With that sheer number of candidates, voters could potentially elect more out LGBTQ candidates in 2021 than any other odd-numbered election year in U.S. history. The previous record, set in 2019, saw 169 people successfully elected to local, state or national office. Looking just at contests that preceded November 2, 42 out LGBTQ people have already been successfully elected to office, requiring only 128 more victories to set a new record.
One of the key storylines this year is whether Pennsylvania voters in Erie County, a traditionally Democratic-but-trending-Republican “swing” county — which often serves as a statewide bellwether county for presidential elections — will elect the first out transgender county executive in the United States. Tyler Titus, the president of the Erie School Board, who runs their own small business offering mental health services, earned the Democratic Party’s nomination in a four-way primary race in May.
The race could potentially have national implications, as Erie County was won by former President Donald Trump in 2016 and by President Joe Biden in 2020, meaning Titus’s performance could be indicative of how popular the Democratic brand is and whether working-class swing voters have once again soured on Democrats.
Two cities could be poised to elect LGBTQ mayors of color on Tuesday. In Buffalo, India Walton, who upset long-time incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary, poised for a rematch against her former opponent, who is now running a write-in campaign against her. If elected, Walton would be the first out LGBTQ mayor of Buffalo if elected and become one of just two Black out LGBTQ women mayors in the entire nation, along with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Sheila Nezhad is running for mayor against the incumbent in a non-partisan ranked-choice election. If elected, Nezhad would be the first out LGBTQ mayor of a city in the entire state of Minneapolis and one of just four (five if Walton wins in Buffalo) LGBTQ people of color currently serving as mayor of a top 100 U.S. city.
Local governing bodies or councils are also up for re-election in various cities. In Atlanta, where there is only one out elected city councillor — Councilmember Antonio Brown — voters could elect as many as five LGBTQ councilmembers with the election of Devin Barrington-Ward, Kelly-Jeanne Lee, Alex Wan, and Liliana Bakhtiari, with the latter potentially becoming the first out queer Muslim elected to office in Georgia history.
See also: Historic number of LGBTQ candidates elected in 2020
Meanwhile, in New York City, where four current LGBTQ councilmembers are termed out, they could be replaced by as many as six out LGBTQ officeholders. Running for office this year are Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn and Kristin Richardson Jordan of Manhattan, who would be the first two Black out LGBTQ women ever elected to the body.
Similarly, candidates Lynn Schulman and Tiffany Cabán would be the first out LGBTQ women elected to any public office from Queens. Chi Ossé of Brooklyn, would make history as the youngest person ever elected to the council. Lastly, Erik Bottcher, a Manhattan resident, would preserve LGBTQ representation in his downtown and West Side district, which is also home to the Stonewall Inn.
Given the national trend of Republicans attacking Democrats at school board meetings over curricula, the alleged inclusion of “critical race theory” in the classroom, and pro-transgender policies adopted by administrators, Tuesday could also be interesting to see whether right-wing attacks on equality in public schools resonate with voters.
There are currently 12 Victory Fund-endorsed out LGBTQ candidates seeking school board positions, including Dion Manley, a candidate in Gahanna, Ohio, who could become just one of six out trans men serving in elected office in the United States. Other candidates include Jae Moyer, seeking to become the first out nonbinary person elected in Kansas, who is running for the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, and Shannon Cuttle, a trans and nonbinary incumbent school board member running for re-election to the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education.
Lastly, New Jersey candidate Vincent Solomeno (D), an Army veteran running in a Republican-leaning district against an anti-LGBTQ incumbent, is seeking to become the first out LGBTQ person ever elected to New Jersey’s upper chamber, while Don Guardian (R), running in a Republican-trending district in South Jersey, is seeking to restore LGBTQ representation in the state Assembly. Currently, the Garden State is one of only six states — and the only Democratic-leaning state — without a single LGBTQ elected official.
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